YomTov, vol. 2 # 5
by Rabbi Yehudah Prero
Question: Why people abstain from corn products on Pesach.
Answer: The Aruch HaShulchan (Orech Chayim 453:4) writes:
"And you should know that according to the law, it is permitted to eat rice
and all types of legumes on Pesach. However, our sages and fathers have had a
long standing custom and accepted upon themselves that it is forbidden to eat
rice and legumes on Pesach...." He continues to give three reasons for this
custom: Because one frequently finds grains of wheat mixed in with these
other foods, we refrain from them as well, so as not to mistakenly eat grains
which have become Chametz (leaven); One frequently finds that grains are made
into a type of "hot cereal" such as oatmeal, cream of wheat, farina, etc..
These "hot cereals" are often indistinguishable from those "hot cereals" made
from legumes. Because we do not want people who see these foods from afar to
become confused and mixed up, we do not eat legumes either; It is possible to
make a dough from many of the "legumes," like corn bread. Again, we do not
want people to become confused when they see someone eating "bread," and
therefore we do not eat legumes."
This custom is generally practiced by those of Ashkenazic descent. Those of
Sephardic descent, however, generally do not practice this custom.
Question: Another reader wanted to know what items are needed for a traditional Seder.
Answer:As far as "foods" go:
To start, one drinks four cups of wine during the Seder. It is preferable to
use red wine, although red wine is not required. If one cannot tolerate wine,
one should speak to their Rabbi for instructions.
Matzo, the unleavened bread eaten throughout Pesach, also plays an important
role at the Seder. Matzo is made both by hand (round shaped) and by machine
For the step of Karpas, one dips a green vegetable in salt water and then
eats it. Celery and cabbage, according to R' David Feinstein, are the best
vegetables to use.
Maror, bitter herbs, are also eaten during the Seder. Ground raw horseradish
and lettuce are two commonly used items for Maror.
It is customary to have a "Seder Plate," a "Ke'arah," on the table during the
Seder. On the Seder plate, one will find different foods. Two of them, Maror
and Chazeres, are essentially the same. Some people use lettuce for Chazeres
and horseradish for Maror. (Both can be used when eating Maror.) Charoses, a
mixture of grated apples, nuts, cinnamon, and wine, has the appearance of
mortar. It symbolizes the life of the Jews in Egypt, whose lives were
embittered by the back breaking labor with brick and mortar. Both the Z'roa,
a roasted bone with some meat on it, and the Beitza, a roasted egg, symbolize
the two sacrifices that were eaten on the Seder night at the time the Temple
was standing. Karpas, as mentioned above, is placed as well on the Seder
Because we must recline while eating at certain times during the Seder, some
find it helpful to have a pillow to lean on. There are many who have the
custom to wear a "Kittel," a special white coat worn on Yom Kippur, at the
Seder. It is of utmost importance that one have a Hagada, the book that
contains the steps of the Seder and accompanying liturgy and blessings, at
the Seder that one is comfortable with. It should be easy to read and easy to
follow, so that the Seder will be the truly uplifting and pleasurable
experience it should be.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.